Media Release: Strong legal profession support for Community Legal Centres in face of funding cliff

The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has welcomed the open letter from the heads of all state and territory law societies published today calling for the reversal of the funding cliff facing Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and funding for the legal assistance sector.

The open letter was signed by all state and territory law societies, representing over 60,000 solicitors across Australia, and published in The Australian today. The letter echoes the concern expressed by leaders of pro bono practices at major Australian law firms about the funding of Community Legal Centres in another open letter published in The Australian in June this year.

“We welcome the support shown by the private legal profession across Australia for the vital work that Community Legal Centres and the legal assistance sector do, and the reversal of the 30% funding cliff facing CLCs from 1 July next year” said Dan Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson.

“Community Legal Centres and the other legal assistance providers help hundreds of thousands of people across Australia every year. The underfunding of these services and the funding cliff will have a significant impact on the ability of people to get the legal help they need” he added.

“Many CLCs work closely with law firms and individual lawyers to provide services to vulnerable and disadvantaged clients. It is heartening to see the Law Council of Australia, Australian Bar Association, all state and territory law societies and pro bono firms all come out in support of CLCs and the sector recently” he said.

“When there is this level of concern about the funding cliff across the profession, it sends a strong message that the funding crisis facing CLCs will have a huge impact on our clients, but also on the broader legal profession and justice system, given our important preventative and early intervention work” he said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Attorney-General and the legal assistance sector, with the support of the profession, to address the funding cliff and discuss the ongoing work and sustainability of the legal assistance sector” concluded Mr Stubbs.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Daniel Stubbs, NACLC National Spokesperson, 0437 253 543
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645

Launch of new campaign: Community Law Australia—Fund Equal Justice

Leading community lawyers from across Australia will meet in Canberra tomorrow to brief Members of Parliament and Senators about the work of Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and call for urgent action to help people missing out on legal help.

The new national campaign, Community Law Australia—Fund Equal Justice, is being led by the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC). The campaign is being launched against the backdrop of rising demand for legal help, but funding cuts to crucial Community Legal Centre services.

“Community Legal Centres provide essential legal help to those in need. While family violence and family law are the top specialist areas for CLCs, we provide a range of legal help to people across a range of legal areas, including debt, employment, housing, social security, and child protection” said Rosslyn Monro, Campaign Spokesperson and NACLC Chairperson ahead of the launch.

“New figures released today from the NACLC 2015 Census reveal that CLCs are turning away more than 160,000 people each year. However, there is a looming 30% cut to national Community Legal Centre funding next year under the new National Partnership Agreement for Legal Assistance Services” said Ms Monro.

“In the context of a relatively small overall budget for CLCs, these funding cuts of between $11m and $12m every year between 2017 and 2020 will have a significant impact on CLC service delivery, and therefore on the ability of people seeking legal help to receive the help they need. For example, a 30% cut to Commonwealth funding nationally is likely to lead to 36,435 fewer clients assisted and 45, 644 fewer advices provided” added Ms Monro.

NACLC calls on the Federal Government to:

  • reverse the national funding cuts to CLCs under the National Partnership Agreement (amounting to $34.83m between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2020)
  • immediately inject $120m per year into the legal assistance sector, consistent with the recommendation made by the Productivity Commission, including at a minimum $14.4m per year to CLCs and appropriate amounts for Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions, and
  • commit to developing a process for determining sustainable long-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:
Rosslyn Monro NACLC Chairperson, 0407 633 084
Amanda Alford, NACLC Director Policy and Advocacy, 0421 028 645

Access to justice brought closer with $33 million funding boost

Community Law Australia today welcomed increased funding to ensure that community legal centres across the country can service more people in need of legal help.

New funding announced by the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus today of $33 million nationally over 4 years will mean that access to justice is not just a set of words, but closer to a reality for thousands of Australians that community legal centres are struggling to service because of limited resources.

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